Jocasta by Brian Aldiss. Book review

JOCASTA By Brian Aldiss, Harper Collins, s/b, £9.99,

Reviewed by Matthew Johns

Brian Aldiss is one of the grand masters of science fiction (quite literally – in 2000 he was named Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America!), and winner of multiple awards, including Hugos and Nebulas.  He’s one of those names that most people will recognise, but few may be able to quote his works.  His most famous is “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long”, which was the basis for the movie “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”.

This book though is a long way removed from his sci-fi roots.  It’s a retelling of the classic Greek story of Oedipus, but from the point of view of his wife (and mother), the titular Jocasta.

In ancient Thebes, all seems well – Oedipus and Jocasta rule their kingdom, and live happily.  However, when Oedipus’ horse prophesies his forthcoming downfall, things begin to turn sour.
The second story, “Antigone”, combines the present world with ancient Greece, as a political prisoner facing the death penalty finds himself in Oedipus’ daughter’s world.

Aldiss never fails to please, and Jocasta is no exception.  For those unfamiliar with the original text, this is an excellent introduction to Sophocle’s works.  It’s also entertaining, being written in a much more modern style than the original.